Has this happened to you? You’re searching for something on a site, which then offers you a never-ending list of posts or images. If you leave the site to come back in, you need to start at the beginning and scroll all over again to return to something you found the last time (if you can find it again).
Or, you’re scrolling through something, but after a while, it’s taking a bit longer than you thought. As you watch the scroll box move down the scroll bar, the site loads more content and the scroll box pops back up just when you thought you were nearing the end.
Welcome to “infinite scrolling.”
Infinite scrolling may be great for social sites and for image-driven sites, like Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter, but I personally don’t recommend it for your blog.
Two more problems you may encounter with infinite scrolling on a site is, it may take too long to load, so you go searching elsewhere, or your mobile device can’t handle the amount of data coming from the site.
Let’s look at whether this feature is good for your blog. Particularly, for your blog’s readers.
Why Pages Are Better
As a blogger, you want a visitor to find relevant content and then read it. That experience is different from visiting Pinterest, for example, where someone is scrolling quickly through a lot of images until something catches their eye. Which experience do you want someone to have when they come to your site?
By the way, in referring to “pages” in this article, I don’t mean your pages, like “about” and “contact.” I’m specifically addressing when a visitor comes into your site, the content they’re presented is shown in a “page” of information. It could be your home page, one post, or a search on your tags. Let’s clear up the confusion and call this “pagination” which helps organize your site and keep your content from becoming overwhelming (which infinite scrolling might do).
Back to my point… Most people are comfortable with using infinite scrolling to find the latest update from friends on social sites. Also, they’re aware of how to navigate the basic structure of Internet websites which use pagination. They know to check for extra information in menus, sidebars and footers, for example.
Research shows people prefer the finality of coming to the end of a page. It’s better for your site’s engagement, too, to end a post where they can comment and share and then see your links for related posts. With infinite scrolling, the previous chronological post will be next (depending on your theme, they might have to scroll back up to comment). If that next post is not interesting to your reader, are they willing to keep thumbing through to the next post, or the next? At some point, your readers leave, of course. Why not have them leave along a path of relevant posts? They’re more likely to return than if their experience was more random.
Turn Off Infinite Scrolling
Here’s how to turn off infinite scrolling in WordPress: go to Settings / Reading page. Uncheck the “Scroll Infinitely” box. (Your theme may or may not have infinite scrolling as the default behavior.)
Additionally, adding a footer widget may also automatically disable the infinite scroll option (see next sub-section).
Be Sure to Create a Footer
Most Internet users look for a footer with “about us”, copyright information, “contact us” and often social links. Having a footer on all the “pages” of your site (remember, that means blog post pages, too) gives your reader a way to orient themselves to your content and also a sense of finality when they come to the end.
To create a Footer, go to Appearance / Widgets and drag widgets into the footer.
Bottom Line: User Experience
In general, the following experiences will be turn-offs (maybe literally) for your readers. I’ve grouped them under Pagination or Infinite Scrolling depending on which might be the culprit.
The Pagination Experience
- Extra actions. That is, clicking to a new page.
One easy way to solve this issue is don’t break up a long post into pages. I know for me, as a reader, I generally don’t care for multi-page posts. According to research, you’ll probably start losing readers at 7 minutes, or 1600 words (see Buffer article).
The Infinite Scrolling Experience
- Possibly a slow-loading site.
- Their mobile device is unable to handle the amount of data.
- The scroll bar is irrelevant.
- The content might be presented randomly and might be overwhelming or seem never-ending.
- Difficulty reaching the footer or no footer at all.
Try this to demonstrate a problem with infinite scrolling and a footer… Visit Instagram in a browser (not in the app). The footer appears fleetingly as you scroll down. You’ll never get to click on it unless you keep scrolling down to the very first post. For my account, that’s over 400 Instagram posts.
If You Still Want Infinite Scrolling
You may still like to use infinite scrolling possibly because your posts are short and your readers are following you on a mobile device. If that’s what you want, it’s up to you, certainly. It may appeal to you that infinite scrolling might keep a visitor on your site longer, which is good for your SEO.
If you prefer to keep infinite scrolling, might I suggest “excerpts” as an option? Instead of full posts, show the excerpts of posts. In this way, as your visitor scrolls through your home page or a search page, they more quickly see links to possible posts they may want to read. For an example of how excerpts look on a blog’s home page and how to create them in WordPress, click here. This is much better than wading through the content of each post to see what the next offering is.
Also, keep in mind, if you tend to write longer blog posts and your audience is following you on their mobile devices, they’re scrolling more than the readers who’ve found you while on their laptops. It helps to know your readers.
Also, make sure your sidebar has content that your reader might otherwise look for in a footer.
If you organize the structure of your blog well, readers will find the content you want them to find.
If this is helpful information for your website or blog, let me know. Maybe you have a question I could address. I’m planning more practical blogging advice in the coming year. I want to take care of the techy help for you so you’re freer to do what you want to do… write.
- Thanks to UX Planet (UX means User Experience) for their article, UX: Infinite Scrolling vs. Pagination, which helped me structure this post and think through blogs in particular. The author points out that Google uses pagination for their searches, but infinite scrolling specifically for image searches. Google understands the difference is: searching for specific content through pagination or discovering through infinite scrolling.
- Both images for today’s post are available on Flickr under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic creative commons license.